Archive for 2013

What to do after Christmas

Now that Christmas is over, we are packing our decorations into storage for another year. But before I pack everything up, I'm carefully examining each item. Are there items that I didn't put out for Christmas this year still sitting in our storage bins? Is it because I don't like them anymore? Or has my style changed or my sense of decorating? These are all questions I'm asking myself so that I don't continue to store items that I don't find useful, beautiful or that I don't absolutely love.

I urge you to ask yourself similar questions this week. As you gather your holiday belongings into your storage containers, is there something in there that you don't fancy anymore and could it possibly make someone you know happy? Maybe you have a friend who has always admired your Christmas village but you don't like setting it up anymore or maybe you prefer a different village that you already own. Why not consider blessing your friend this season and removing the burden of one more item to store and take care of for yourself?

Since I'm very sensitive to passing my stuff on to other people and it becoming clutter for them, I generally just donate everything to my local thrift store. That way, people can decide if it's something they want to purchase without any guilt offerings from me. :)

Years ago, when my husband and I were going through leaner times, it was such a joy to find items that I needed and truly wanted at such stores for such an affordable price. Now, I like to bless people with that same experience as I had. Not to mention, most thrift stores use their proceeds for worthwhile charities.

We currently have two large storage boxes for our Christmas decorations. It's my personal goal to get everything condensed down into one box (the thought of only one box of decorations makes me happy). But, this has not happened yet. We have a rather large faux wreath that would be completely smooshed if we tried to fit it in one box with a tree stand, ornaments and lights for the tree. Maybe one year I will donate it and start purchasing fresh pine wreaths for the door. I think the scent of pine would be so welcoming to our guests.

Next week, I will start a Q&A series for the month of January. So send in your questions via email or post below in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!

Don't forget: You can sign up to receive Chic Planner blog posts delivered directly to your inbox. If you are planning to take a break from social media during the month of January, be sure to sign up at the end of the page. 

Any of my fellow Chic Planner readers donating some of your holiday decor now that the season is passed?

Our minimalist Christmas - part 2

Last week, I mentioned how we are simplifying our Christmas in the decorations area. Today, I'm addressing traditions. Many of you have already started traditions with your family such as an advent calendar or maybe it's an Elf on the Shelf. Whatever you are already doing, keep with it, unless it's making you crazy and if that's the case, by all means let it go. If your spouse finds you curled up in the fetal position in your closet crying (I've personally experienced this), then this is not good. Your sanity and that of your family is much more important.

For several years, after Steve and I moved back to Birmingham, we had the annual tradition of cooking a fancy meal and inviting friends and family over on Christmas Eve. We would do a standing rib roast with fresh horseradish and mashed potatoes, salad, and sometimes my mother would make a chocolate roulage log. Simply divine. But then we had kids. And to rush home from our Christmas Eve service to finish cooking a meal while children were crying and hungry did not work. Also, trying to keep sticky hands from pulling my beloved Herend china off the table was near impossible. So last year we changed the tradition. That's the wonderful thing about traditions. You dictate them. You get to change them and alter them and you get the option to say, "hmmm that really didn't work for us last year."

Last year, I borrowed an idea from my friend, Michelle (who has given me lots of great ideas) who started a tradition of eating Japanese hibachi with her husband on Christmas Eve the first year they got married. Five children later and they never stopped that practice. It sounded fun and yummy to me along with no dishes to clean, and what kid isn't mesmerized by a volcano made out of onions and fire? Last year, we did the hibachi dinner and had a wonderful time. This year we will do it again. Simplify!

As the years go by and our children get older and can show restraint with mommy's crystal and all things breakable :), we may get back to a home cooked Christmas Eve meal. Or we may continue eating japanese remembering that the point of the tradition is to create solidarity between your family and give them a special memory. As they grow up and get married, they will create new traditions with their spouses. And so the tradition continues... the tradition is to make new and special memories with your family whatever that looks like for you.

What new tradition are you implementing this year and what are you discarding?

Our minimalist Christmas - part 1

Tis the season to be merry and bright. And with that comes also the expectation to meet everyone's wishes for gifts, demands for time and scheduled events. There is no one right way to celebrate Christmas, only what you deem is right for your family. That's why I'm writing this two part series on how we celebrate this most beloved season in our own minimalist way. It's my hope that this post causes you to reflect on what is most valuable in your celebrations and to discard what is clutter.

Over the past years, our Christmas and general holiday activity has become more minimalist in nature - in our decorations, gift giving and our celebrations. This is not to say that we are scrooges, far from it. However, we are not intent on defining this special holiday season by what marketeers project on us: the need for the latest and greatest item of the season. So my husband and I have purposed to disengage from this aforementioned philosophy and to do our best to reign in the materialism so often associated with Christmas. We want to do things our way: meaningful, simple and in budget. (My husband especially likes the in budget part, but then again so do I. No one wants to spend the day after Christmas adding up bills from overspending. It's not too late to set a budget for Christmas. :)

When it comes to holiday decor, there seem to be extremes of it. Our neighbor down the street, who has a yard the size of a postage stamp, has managed to cover it with every inflatable Christmas themed blow up piece possible. Santas, trains, snowmans, and everything under the sun that inflates and has blinking lights. My son loves to walk down to this house and admire all the decor. We can appreciate all of this neighbor's effort and he has provided entertaiment for our whole family and neighborhood. However, our Christmas decor will look quite different at home.

In our home, we have three items we use for the season: wreath for the front door, a Christmas tree (borrowed artificial or a modest real one), and a small red sign painted by my friend's sister. That's it. I minimally decorated my home to begin with so my "holiday decorations" reflect that. The less I decorate with means the less to store, take care of, keep, put up, take down and dust off.

It's not about what you have always done or what others do, it's about defining the right celebration for you, so think outside of the box. Everyone has different circumstances this Christmas and different budget constraints so if you need to scale back or do something simple this year then do it. Don't let the comparison of what everyone else is doing keep you from being free in this area.

Is there an area where you are struggling to simplify this year or something you decided to do this year that has given you more freedom? Comment below, I would love to hear about it. 

Finding free space

I've been thinking this week about free space. It all started because out of sheer desperation for a break, we removed our table with lamp from our living room. This is our only table and lamp mind you, but we were constantly pulling our toddler away from it and since he is one of the most persistent children that I have personally ever met, I decided to just give up the battle and store it in my husband's office/guest room for the time being. And now all I can think about is this awesome free space. This whole corner of our house that is no longer taken up by an object is now just a blank canvas. And to be honest, it ministers to me. All that free space somehow just soothes my soul in a way. My mind is so visually stimulated by stuff, objects, items... that when I remove them, it ushers in peace to my soul.

Since moving into our home, Steve will remark during my de-cluttering rampages, why don't we just store it? We have all this available storage "free space" so why not use it? To which I reply, just because we have the "free space", doesn't mean that we need to fill it. But we do that so often in our lives. Not only with things, but with our time and activities. Lately, I have been re-prioritizing in my life and looking for ways to cut back. I'm one of those people who if given the chance, will jam pack our days with lunches, appointments, errands, things to do... and if I'm not careful, I become burnt out. So I'm looking for that free space. And since I know it doesn't just happen, I have to physically remove something in order to create it, I'm examining my schedule to see what areas do I need to remove so that I can bring some order and peace into my life.

For some, it may be removing one extra box of Christmas decorations this year, for others it could mean taking the extra time over the holidays to finally clear out that garage that's been looming over you, or for some it might mean removing some appointments from your calendar this season. Whatever it looks like for you, I encourage you to create the free space. It will feel good when you do.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fabulous Chic Planner subscribers. I would love to hear, where do you need to create free space this season?

How I'm reducing waste this week

A few weeks ago, I wrote about reducing our waste inspired by Bea Johnson. After a few weeks of focused thought on ways and areas in our home that could be further reduced, I'm listing what I have observed. I do have some friends that are concerned that I'm becoming a little too "crunchy." If you could see me in my designer skinny jeans and leopard print ballet flats, then I think we could all agree I'm not anywhere close to that.

This stewardship mindset that has continued to evolve in me started with minimizing and simplifying my things and my life. The rewards of this however not only benefit me and my peace of mind but there are considerable sustainable rewards to our environment as well. And I will be the first to admit that I never connected the two when I started, but I for sure see their relation now. When we stop buying clutter and start looking for ways to be happier with less or with what we currently own, then we are choosing to reduce our waste and the earth's resources. Bea Johnson frequently quotes on her blog that shopping is voting. I like that.

As with any new mindset and habit you adopt, it's best to start small and work in small chunks of time. For example, it can be easy to get overwhelmed when de-cluttering, so many times I advise my clients to work only for 15 minutes a day on each room so as not to burn out. Since I have been considering the ways that our home could become closer to zero-waste, I am focusing on areas of the home one at a time to incorporate my strategies so that I don't become overwhelmed. All of a sudden my eyes have become opened to how much trash and waste that my family generates a week and I'm not very proud of it. So here are my small discoveries. I've been focusing on the bathroom to start my process.

- I have realized that by using multiple hair products on my fine hair, that the products aren't helping and possibly weighing my hair down more. So I have ditched 3 products and am only using hairspray.
- Replaced toothpaste with baking soda which is a green cleaner as well.
- I threw out some old jewelry cleaner and won't be purchasing anymore. I only need an scrubber brush and some baking soda to clean my diamond jewelry or mild soap.
- Instead of buying refill hand soap that comes in a plastic container, I'm using a bar soap from the farmer's market that doesn't come with any wrapping and have switched to castile soap which has lots of cleaning uses.
- I threw out all of my nail varnishes. They are old and stinky. I'm not planning to replace at this time which means no nail polish on my hands or toes.
- I found some old plastic clips and headbands that I'm donating to the thrift store.
- Got rid of my old nail file and using a stainless one instead that I already own.
- Consolidated stainless steel grooming equipment down to only the essentials. Between my husband and I, there were several duplicate tweezers and fingernail clippers. We only need one pair.

This is a small list to just get us started but it has been fun to focus on the bathroom the past few weeks, mulling over in my mind ways to reduce waste in that room. In the meantime, my husband started a composting bin and plans to write about his experience with that in the coming weeks.

Have you been intrigued about the concept of zero waste? I would love to hear your thoughts on it. 

More purple than I expected

(I’m back from my hiatus. :) This is a guest post from my kind and patient husband, Steve.)

To the spouses out there that don’t get this whole minimalism/zero waste thing, I understand. It’s been a journey for me, too. I was really excited when Laura Gail started her business because I knew it would be an outlet for her, and I would hopefully have fewer conversations beginning with questions like “are you sure you need two combs in your toiletry basket?”

When it comes to running our household, we come at it from different priorities. I don’t like to buy things we don’t need, but I really don’t like getting rid of things we ended up needing later (spoiler alert: this almost never happens). I want to be mindful of the environment, but if our budget depended on it, I’m prepared to pass out chainsaws to cut down the rainforest. I’ve illustrated that in the following graphic; some of her top household priorities in the pink circle and mine in the blue. I threatened all week to include a Venn-diagram in this post and I’m not about to back down now!

These two circles overlap to form the “purple” section. In following our priorities and keeping an open mind (happy wife, happy life), I’ve been surprised that at the end of the day, there’s a lot more purple than I expected. Her desire to have less stuff and clutter in our house leads to more analysis prior to making purchases – which in turn ensures that we get good use out of the things we buy. What’s good for the environment can be good for the wallet. A recent example is that we just started composting our table scraps, vegetable/fruit peels, etc. Great for the environment, but it’s also going to produce some great (free) soil enrichment to help us grow better vegetables next year in our garden (that I won’t have to buy at the grocery store).

If you’re the one dragging your feet on this minimalist journey, keep an open mind. You may be surprised to find more in it for you than you thought. If your spouse won’t get on board, keep nagging all the time. Just kidding; be patient and take time to understand what your spouse’s priorities are and you’ll be better equipped to make your own Venn-diagram. There may be more purple than you expect.

A temporary hiatus

I will be taking a break from blogging for the next couple of weeks, but when I return we will have a guest post by my husband discussing his view of minimalism and how it has impacted him.

In the meantime, check out this great article that was posted on one of my favorite sites, detailing one blogger's goal at reducing waste in her home as I talked about last week.

Minimizing your waste

One of my favorite blogs that I have been totally obsessed with lately is Zero Waste Home. This delightful Frenchwoman Bea Johnson is transforming the environmentalist landscape in America with her picturesque home and shopping habits. I don't think its her intention to make composting look glamorous but she somehow does it and more. One of the things that I love most about her minimalist/environmentalist philosophy is that she goes shopping twice a year for clothing for herself and her family and only shops at the thrift store and other second hand stores. I've been so inspired by her story and her charge as an activist to be a better steward of our planet and resources, not only physical but monetary as well, because as Bea notes on her blog, once you start buying in bulk (without packaging) you save money.

I've been looking for ways to incorporate a little bit of her philosophy here at home. So here are my changes so far. They are tiny and may sound insignificant but the paper and plastic waste add up and so do the dollars.

1. I've switched to brushing my teeth with baking soda for a little while. It can be bought in bulk, it's inexpensive, natural and the container it comes in at most stores is recyclable. Along those lines, I'm not buying mouthwash anymore.

2. We grow our own lettuce now. Not only are the lettuces beautiful but they taste better, and it has saved us up to $8 a week on buying bagged lettuce at the grocery store. Don't be intimidated by growing some of your own herbs and veggies. Our lettuce is planted in two clay pots sitting in the sunshine in our backyard and is thriving.

3. I'm going to use up all the blush and eyeshadow I have before buying anything new or making anything new. According to Bea's blog, she makes most of her cosmetics.

Check out Bea's video on youtube to see how she incorporates minimalism and waste reduction at home.

I love to hear tips from Chic Planner readers, so what are some things you are doing to eliminate waste in your home in any form or what's holding you back from becoming a zero waste home?

Organizing the kids' closet

I maintain a capsule wardrobe for my children so I want their closet to be clutter free just like mine. My boys share a room, which I absolutely love, so it's important that I have a system for keeping their clothing separate and organized.

Currently, I have little coats and sweaters along with dress outfits hanging. On the second floor of our changing table which is stored in their closet (another thing I love) I have three blue bins that store their every day play clothing and their jammies. I have one bin that holds all the jammies for both boys; my boys are pretty different in size, so it isn't confusing when grabbing a pair whose is whose. The jammies bin is always to the very far left of the bins. It's not labeled, but everyone knows where it is including the boys and our babysitters. The bin in the middle belongs to my youngest son and currently holds little shirts and shorts and his socks. The bin to the far right belongs to my oldest son and has shorts, jeans, and short sleeve shirts in it. Since we are transitioning out of summer and into fall, the bins will get sorted again, long sleeve shirts will replace short sleeves and shorts will be put in storage. 

I have two plastic tubs stacked on top of each other that hold baby items and out of season clothing and shoes. I prefer to always use clear plastic containers but I think these were re-purposed from holding Christmas decorations at one point, so I just used what I had on hand. 

I would love to know: what tips do you have on organizing children's closets?

A detailed plan of my child's wardrobe

Since last week's post, where I wrote about how I plan my children's clothing, Chic Planner readers have inquired about my exact numbers and what my list actually looks like. As I mentioned last week, I like to use numbers as a guide. It helps me to remember what I really need versus what would be nice or is a luxury. Regarding clothing for children and really any items in my home, I like to err on the side of just enough so I can see how much I can get by with. I’m always trying to figure out a way to live with fewer items in our house.

I’m not sure about the children you know, but the children I’m familiar with can be completely covered in mud in literally a minute, thus requiring multiple wardrobe changes over the course of one day. So, I start with the minimal number needed of an item and if I find it's not enough then I can always purchase more.

So here are my numbers that I have projected for the fall/winter seasons for one child. This list is for my oldest child and there are a number of items that still fit from last year - bonus! I've also noted in brackets how I plan to purchase items still needed.

Current wardrobe:
knee socks (see dress shoes below)
sweatshirt hoodie
sweater cardigan (still fits from last fall)
3 pairs pants
4 long sleeve tops
dress shoes (purchased from an FB trading site in the spring. Paid $10 for them, bought some white shoe polish and they are as good as new. The sweet girl that I bought them from even threw in 2 pairs of knee socks in different sizes. Sweet!)
winter coat * - received as a hand-me-down the most precious little pea coat from a friend. Not sure if it will still fit by February, one of our coldest months in Alabama, so I’m keeping it on my need to purchase list just in case.

Need to purchase:
winter coat (requesting as Christmas gift from grandparents. It's the south folks, sometimes we are in short sleeves on Christmas day)
4 footed PJs (probably Wal-Mart or the thrift store)
2 sets socks (will purchase new from local children's shoe store)
2 pairs Keds
3 dress outfits (plan to purchase at thrift store and from friends on trading sites)
4 pairs of pants
3 long sleeve tops

As you can see, I still have a number of items to purchase but I am attempting to live with less, because as I mentioned a few weeks ago, we have cut several categories out of our budget. This means I’m not really looking to purchase everything on my need list but instead I’m making do with what we have. My children are for sure sporting the capsule wardrobe this fall and winter. :)

I also like to record any purchases on a separate page in my notebook so that I can keep track of how much I spent on each item in case I decide to consign it next season, and so there is a record of how much we're spending on our children's clothing. It's important to know that when figuring out one's shopping budget each month or year.

There you have it, my detailed list of clothing for my older child. It’s not fancy but it’s simple and it didn’t break the bank. J

What are your plans for outfitting your children for the fall and winter seasons?

Planning your child's wardrobe

Just as it's important to be strategic with my wardrobe, I find it saves time and money when I apply this to my children's clothing as well. Learning how many shoes, socks, pants, tops, jackets, etc. are needed for each child makes a difference in how and when I shop. It's helpful to pay attention to this number because it gives me confidence knowing that I always have something appropriate for each child to wear no matter the occasion or the temperature outside.

Here are a few examples of my numbers:
1 sweater cardigan per child/ per season (fall, spring)
2-3 dressy outfits per child/per season (fall, winter, spring, summer)
1 pair of dress shoes per child
1 pair of knee socks per child
6 pairs of regular socks per child

Since the Alabama climate is somewhat temperate, I have found that depending on an item's fit and the child's growth in a given year, I can stretch a clothing item over several seasons or for an entire year. I've been able to do this recently with cardigan sweaters. I bought them big enough that the sleeves could be rolled up once and then a year later, we unrolled the sleeves and the fit of the sweater was still long enough to be worn this fall and winter for my 3 year old.

I have little boys so we spend most of our time in play/casual clothing. I have learned that one set of socks (they come in 3s) isn't enough for how dirty my boys like to get. So I buy two packages at a time for each little one when we purchase new shoes. Since the boys dress up usually once a week, I discovered that I only needed one pair of knee socks and dress shoes for each child. They don't get them very dirty since we change out of our dress clothes when we get home from church, and I wash them in a load of the boys' laundry each week.

These aren't hard and fast rules that one has to stick by, but they are a guide to make life simpler and easier when dressing children. Knowing that my boys only need that one cardigan a piece makes shopping less stressful for me because once I find one, I purchase it and mark it off my children's wardrobe plan.

How do you know when you have enough clothing for your children?

Book clutter

Just as we discussed last week how fewer, quality toys can impact your child's creative play, this week I want to discuss how fewer books and quality literature can impact not only your living space but your child's imagination as well.

After I de-cluttered my children's toys, I went after their books as well. If I'm the one reading these books to them then I determined that I wanted to be able to enjoy them as well. So, I donated books that I didn't like or agree with for personal or moral reasons, and then kept the ones that we love the most in a small bin next to our favorite reading spot. I put the rest of the books away except for about 5 chosen ones to be used as our book library. We recycle them in and out of the closet so that our book bin doesn't get overwhelmed with books and so my children don't get overwhelmed with too many choices. An abundance of choice is what Americans are faced with every day and honestly, I'm not so sure that it is all that good for us. I tend to get overwhelmed when I go to a restaurant and the server presents me with a 10 page menu. The same thing happens for children. An abundance of stuff can be stressful for all persons no matter the age. When we reserve a few cherished books set out for our kids to read and learn from, they become committed to memory and heart. Thus, every time we pick them up to read from, it's like being re-united with an old friend.

Here are some of our favorites:
- Goodnight Moon
- Llama Llama Time to Share
- The Little Engine that Could
- Jesus Storybook Bible

What is your favorite piece of quality, children's literature?

Quality versus quantity in the toy box

Probably the best parenting book I have ever read, meaning the most practical and tangible effects after implementation, is Simplicity Parenting (many thanks to The Chic Planner subscriber, Mallory for recommending it). If you have children, I highly encourage you to read this fabulous book; it literally is life-changing.

One of the points so well articulated in the book is to reduce children's toys. Not only reduce them, but to be intentional about the kind you purchase and allow in your home. I have always been a fan of simple, wooden toys, but this book helped me figure out why: it's because they aren't fixed. You can manipulate them and make them come alive. Toys that are fixed are the ones with all the bells and whistles that do everything or have some kind of character or theme attached to them. I love it when I see my children using their imaginations and getting deeply engrossed in their play.

In our house we have reduced the amount of toys that are left in our living space and their bedroom. I bagged up a bunch of plastic stuff and have it sitting in a closet to use as a toy library of sorts. Once I took the majority of toys away, I saw that my children really did play with the same things over and over every day, and the rest of the toys they just made a mess with and didn't really play or engage with them. In our home, the two toys that are played with every day is this wonderful toy kitchen and our wooden Thomas the Train set. We don't have a train table but just some tracks that are built differently each day.

It really was so liberating as a parent when I realized that my children don't need much to keep them happy. Just some good quality toys that meet their interest and that they can each interact with in a different way.

What are some of your favorite quality toys that are played with on a regular basis?

Stay the course

This past week has been by far one of the busiest weeks I have had in a long time. I worked at a client's house, threw a baby shower, hosted a surprise birthday party for my husband, entertained out of town family, attended a child's birthday party and hosted a financial class in my home. It's been a great week and I have had my nose to the grind. That said, this week's post is a little more inspirational in nature to encourage you to not give up living and pursuing a simplified thus more organized life.

This journey into de-cluttering one's home, life, possessions, closets and even cars, isn't an easy one. At times it is very painful and can even cause tears. No one likes to face mistakes they have made or own up to bad decisions, nor does anyone want reminders of dreams or hopes dashed. You may find this happens on your journey, but please don't be discouraged. Tears may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. As you continue to release the past, some good and some not so good, you will find a peace and calm that resides the next morning. A new perspective or fresh outlook on life. It may be an end table that's been so weighted down with mail, magazines and tchotchkes, that once freed from its burdens, you decide it's the exact piece you've been needing to function as your new nightstand. Who knows what's possible or what new adventure you may find in your home. Be ready, be of good courage and don't give up: freedom is here!

What keeps you from giving up in your journey to a simplified life?

A sample of my go-to meal

In my life, it makes things easier when I utilize a go-to meal. This is a uniform of sorts, much like the capsule wardrobe, except that it's food. Just as a few key pieces in your closet make life easier, so does the quintessential meal that's perfect for entertaining or for delivering to a new mom.

In my world, having people over for dinner usually involves our children and their children which means baked salmon over polenta is not going to fly with these inexperienced palates. So, I always rely on my go-to meal. It caters to just about every taste and always gets rave reviews.

Here's my go-to meal:
Baked Ziti
Fresh green salad
Garlic bread
Chocolate cake

This meal is not for the faint of heart or anyone counting calories. But, when I have company over or when a friend has a baby, it's a time to celebrate and enjoy good food. I'm not concerned about my unhealthy choice especially when I'm enjoying leftover chocolate cake the next morning for breakfast (the key is to do this before everyone else gets up).

Since this is my delivery meal for new moms, I have found that I can even split my recipe and deliver it to two small families. One time, I had two moms to deliver to in one week, so I just portioned the Ziti out into 8x8 pans (my recipe makes a 9x13 casserole), and the cake was cut into individual portions and dished into pans as well; it worked out perfectly.

Cost breakdown:
The cost of this meal is something else that I adore.  I once fed a group of 12 women this meal and it only cost me around $16. Since, it's cheaper than take-out (and I personally believe it tastes better) then I will continue making it till all my friends are tired of it and want new recipes. :)

What is your go-to meal?

Opting out of mail lists

In the past few weeks, I have been vigorously removing my name from various email lists, targeted junk mail, and solicitations. My family is working on a specific financial goal and we have decided to curb our spending as much as possible in order to meet that goal. We have a plan in place and we are purposing to stick to it.

That said, when I consistently receive coupons, sales promotions, and other ads in my inbox every day, it keeps me in a spending mode, not a saving mode. So, I have been removing my name from all the various sites that send me advertising coupons that I can purchase for restaurants, vacations, and the like. I subscribed to my favorite stores where I like to buy clothing, but if for instance, I'm not purchasing clothing in this season of my life, then it's probably not helpful to keep receiving their ads. By eliminating this visual clutter from my inbox, I have found that I'm able to focus more on the e-mails that need to be answered and dealt with without having to navigate amongst the chaos of promotional e-mails.

Here are the benefits of opting out of mail lists, whether e-mail or snail mail:
- Less paper to handle and file
- Decreases desire to shop
- Saves money
- Breeds contentment with what you already own

For me, the benefits far outweigh the possibility that I might be missing out on a good deal or coupon. The truth is, it's only a good deal, if you have the money to buy it.

What are your tips for simplifying your (e)mail?

Simple finances

One of the ways we have simplified in our home is in the area of finances. By adopting a simplistic, conservative, not fancy, approach to money, it has allowed for less headaches and easier accounting.

Here are my tips for creating a simple financial system:

tip 1  Use just one checking account that is joint, if you are married. This way the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.

tip 2  Eliminate credit cards. Not only was this the best decision we ever made for our marriage (besides  cutting the cable - but that's a different post) but it ensures that we pay cash for everything using a debit card or literally cash, it's that paper stuff that nobody uses anymore. It makes record keeping pretty easy because we can glance at our checkbook to remember whether we spent the money whereas with the credit card it's easy to rack up debt (literally) because most people don't keep a log of their purchases.

tip 3  Make a zero-based budget. And then use it.

By just implementing these three things, our finances have become so much easier to manage and we experience true freedom in our lives by not being burdened by consumer debt and accounting mistakes.

What are your tips for simplifying household finances?

The simple kid's birthday party

This summer, I wanted to keep my childrens' birthday parties fairly simple, inexpensive, but nice. We opted for a party at our local zoo. Now in order to have a party at the zoo, it costs at least $250 if you are a member. That dollar amount did not fit in with my idea of inexpensive. So this is how I created my own simple version of a zoo party.

Pick a place that is free or where everyone has a membership.
- We invited 3 kids the same age as my child that all had zoo memberships.

Keep the activity simple.
- We met at the carousel in our zoo. We had a coupon for 4 free rides so the kids all got to pick their favorite animal to ride on. After our ride, the kids played in the splash pad located next to the carousel for 45 minutes.

Eat (in a different location if possible).
- My husband and I agree, this was the game changer for the party. The kids were exhausted from all that play and hungry. We walked outside of the zoo to the picnic tables located on the property. We quickly unfolded two plastic tablecloths and handed out lunches. That was the most laid back lunch I have ever had with a bunch of toddlers. They just sat there and ate. It was almost relaxing.

No favors.
- The favor is, they get to come to your house, mess it up and not have to clean it up, eat cake, play with their friends and then go home in a sugar coma. I mean as parents, we should pay the hosts to let our kids come and be entertained for two hours.

Make the food yourself and serve it on your dishes.
- Not only does this make for a lovely and sophisticated display, but you save money and paper waste by not buying disposable plates. But hey, I'm also in favor of saving your sanity, so if paper plates make life easier for you, then by all means purchase disposables! Since, both of my children had parties at the zoo this year, I packed each person their own lunch sack personalized with their name. I do make the best pimento cheese. :)

No gifts.
- This one is actually my favorite tip. We give one present to each child on their birthday. Then by the time each set of grandparents chimes in, the total is up to 5 gifts. Add on the loot from the party goers and you've got yourself in toy overload. Consider giving a gift of experience instead.

Do you have any tips to share for simple kids' parties? 

How to make a simpler filing system

I've had many requests for a post on filing. Paperwork seems to be the nemesis to a simplified life.  Summer is the perfect time to tackle your filing system. The days are longer, there aren't the physical demands on your schedule such as holiday events, and it just makes sense when you are feeling good. It's a lot harder to make myself do these types of things when it is cold and dreary outside.

Before we begin with label printer in hand and sharpies, it's important to streamline what needs to be filed in the first place. By this I mean, the incoming mail; the hoard of catalogs, junk mail and bills that we receive on a daily basis. I have worked to get our name off just about every catalog, solicited and unsolicited, that I can. For me, looking at catalogs just reminds me of more items that I don't own and stirs up discontentment; in our house, we are better off without them. Next, it's important to sign up for electronic billing for all of your accounts to help reduce the amount of time spent filing (and conserve landfills). I can honestly say that once I adapted our file cabinet to the system made below, it literally takes seconds to open the mail and file it quickly. Note: we use a two-drawer filing cabinet simply because that is what we have. I would prefer a single acrylic file box, but my husband likes the cabinet and well you know, some battles are better fought elsewhere. :) So, be flexible if you are in the same boat as me. Now, let's get started.

Step 1 - go paperless for as many bills and accounts that you possibly can. We prefer to receive the actual bank statements for our checking account but all other documents we receive electronically, when given the option.

The system below is one that I created for our home. It utilizes the alphabet for quick memory and filing. If you know the ABC's, then filing is very quick and you won't have to stop and think, "where do I put this receipt for a donation?" That's easy - it goes in the "D" file for deductions. The deductions file is going to house everything you need come tax time. I have created 7 categories. You may need more. So, adjust as needed.

Here are the 7 categories:
(A)ccounts - bank statements, investment reports
(B)ills - utilities, receipts...
(C)hildren - parenting resources, paperwork, crafts from school with hand prints
(D)eductions - charitable contributions, medical receipts, childcare bills, W2s, business expenses
(E)nvironment - closing documents, lease agreement, warranties
(F)amily legacy - legacy drawer
(G)eneral - miscellaneous, family budget, coupons, article torn out of a magazine

There is no one wrong or right way to build a filing system. The point is to just do it and do it consistently. When we don't file paper as soon as it enters the home, then it just piles up and becomes a big headache to deal with later on creating a clutter hot spot. By making a habit of checking the mail every day, opening and filing it immediately, then when you need to locate a specific document, it's easy to find.

The system above is based on our needs. Seven files may not be enough for your household. You may need to add additional categories. Don't get stuck on trying to fit everything into that number if you can't. The point of this exercise is to consider your situation and what fits best for your family and household. Let my example above be a starting point for you. Let's dig in together and purpose to reduce the amount of paper coming into our homes and the clutter it creates.

Are you implementing a simpler filing system? I would love to hear about it. 

**update: As I was finishing this post, I heard the postman at our mailbox and thought how appropriate that I stop to go check the mail and immediately file it. We had one piece and it was a mailer from a well-known company with coupons for baby formula. I immediately located a number on the back of the mailer to remove my name from their list and called. It took two seconds and just saved me the future hassle of taking something to the recycling bin, saved the company money, and conserved the environment. I call that a win-win. 

Strategic shopping can save you money

Strategic shopping is the name of the game when you own a capsule wardrobe. I no longer just browse and purchase, but I utilize my wardrobe plan so that I can make sure that everything in my closet is interchangeable so I don't end up wearing the same color or same style every day. I believe strategic shopping is all about saving your hard-earned money.

Many of us grew up shopping with our mothers as a past time activity or what we did after lunch, but I recommend something different to my clients. I prefer to be a little more intentional about why we are shopping, because not only does it save money, but by staying out of the shopping malls every weekend it helps diffuse our culture's pull on us to be defined by what we own.

Strategic shopping utilizes my essential wardrobe plan and my top 3 questions:
1. Do I already own something like it?
2. Do I need it?
3. Where will I put it?

By asking ourselves these questions, it requires us to stop and pause before we swipe the card or fork over the almighty dollar; many times it will keep us from making a duplicate purchase. I can't tell you how many times, I have found duplicate items in my clients' homes with the price tags still attached because they didn't realize they already owned a version of the same thing. Strategic shopping works best when utilizing the capsule wardrobe. You are less likely to make a duplicate purchase when you know every item in your closet and have a shopping list ready with the missing items.

Across the U.S. in the coming month, many states will offer a tax-free shopping weekend for back to school supplies. The items vary from state-to-state, but I'm most interested in buying clothing tax-free. In my neck of the woods (Alabama), it occurs this coming weekend, August 2-4. I don't know about you, but I would love to save extra on my purchases for the Summer/Fall/Winter seasons.

I will be shopping this weekend and carrying my wardrobe plan which lists items and colors needed for my wardrobe.

Do you plan to take advantage of the sales tax holiday in your area? Do you take a list with you when you shop for clothing?

Paris taught me how to keep birthdays simple

le tour eiffel (from my scrapbook)
It feels like it wasn't long ago that I spent a summer in France but time flies by when you start having kids, moving locations and making career changes. I do hope that I'm a lot wiser now than I was then. But even if I didn't exercise wise choices at every opportunity, there were some pretty important lessons learned from that time that I still carry with me today. One stand out lesson was on materialism and simplifying birthdays and gifts.

The summer of 1998, I traveled to France with a group from my university (Roll Tide!) to study French in Tours, France. Many weekends we would hop on a train and indulge ourselves in the luxury of Paris. One weekend in particular we spent at a friend's home in the suburbs of Paris on the occasion of their teenage daughter's birthday. We dined on a lovely meal in the beautifully landscaped backyard, ate dessert, and then opened presents. That was when the culture shock set in for me. She was given just a handful of presents wrapped in colored tissue paper. No ribbon or fancy bows and the gifts were even less fancy: a CD and a few makeup items like colored eyeliner pencils. I noticed that even the makeup was a drugstore brand such as Maybelline or L'Oreal - something easily purchased in any drugstore in America.

I grew up in a fairly affluent suburb in my hometown. I was accustomed to great birthday extravaganzas and, even more so, lots of extravagant presents. I never forgot that detail about my Paris friend. She was so happy with the gifts she received. I noticed true contentment at spending her special day with loved ones and thankful for the gifts she did receive.

Of the many things that I remember about my time in Europe, it's interesting to me that this particular memory stands out. There was a lesson to be learned. When we celebrate someone's birthday what we are really doing is giving thanks that they were born. That they were created for a purpose and that we are blessed they were born on that day, in that year, and are a part of our lives. Giving a gift is one way to show the person our thankfulness for their presence in our lives, but it's not the only way. So as the years have gone by, my family has done it's best to adopt this principle. Keep it small, keep it simple, and keep it memorable. Because when I look back on my birthdays, I don't really remember the gifts, I remember the people who were there.

What are your tips for maintaining balance when it comes to gift giving?

Take a tour of my make-up bag

Last week, I wrote about my favorite summer look. Today, I'm showing you my make-up bag and sharing my favorite products. I want to make wise choices with my money concerning skincare and make-up products. I like to get the best bang for my buck, but it can be really confusing when there are so many creams and potions on the market all making the same claims. So I use Paula Begoun's website before I make any type of purchase for my skin. She rates all ranges of products on the market from drugstores to those only carried in high-end department stores. As with anything, you have to test it for yourself, but 99% of the time, I find that her reviews are spot-on. I think the only product that I use that doesn't get her best review is my lip gloss. But I like the colors in the Bare Essentials Buxom lips line and they work for me. I bought the Rimmel eyeliner because of her rating and I love it. I previously was using an $18 eyeliner from Urban Decay and it was always smudging so I was so excited to find something that I like better and at a more affordable price point.

Here is my make-up bag and the products I'm currently using: MAC Body paint, MAC studio finish concealer, Aveda dual finish powder, Bobbi Brown creme blush (powder pink), Wet n Wild icon eyeshadow, Rimmel Exaggerate waterproof eyeliner (brown), MAC eye shadow (for my brows - not sure the color because the label has rubbed off), ELF lengthening mascara (black), and Bare Minerals Buxom lip gloss (debbie).

I'm a huge fan of inexpensive eye make-up; by purchasing drugstore brands it allows me to prioritize my favorite products. I prefer to invest my money in quality foundation, lip gloss and blush.

What is your favorite make-up splurge or savings?

A summer look

photo courtesy of J.Crew

It's hot here in the South. My skin feels like it is going to slide right off along with the make-up I applied this morning. Remembering this key concept, has proved helpful when choosing my summer look. That's why I love the make-up look in the photo above; it inspires me to go with the more is less look this summer. I want fresh, young and dewy (not to be confused with oily). I'm sharing with you my keys to a summery, fresh look.

- Pick a light cleanser (my fav) to completely remove your make-up before bed. I have heard that some of you don't do this. This is not going to work. Let's just agree that from now on, if nothing else, you will commit to this one simple step in your bedtime routine. It will save your face and prevent break-outs. In order to sport the fresh look, your skin needs to not be wearing remnants of yesterday's face.

Here's how I create my summer look:

- Pick a great lightweight moisturizer with SPF.  Apply all over your face to maximize protection from the sun.

- Consider applying foundation only to the areas that have pigmentation.

- Lightly dot concealer under the eyes (only on the dark area - putting concealer under the entire eye will cover the lighter area and accentuate wrinkles), and over any areas that have discoloration.

- Use a creme blush (I use my lip gloss) on the apples of your cheeks.

- Dust a little setting powder over your nose or T-zone.

- Apply waterproof eyeliner on the top eyelids only and mascara on top and bottom.

- Finish with some lip gloss.

Not only are you done in 5 minutes but you look pulled together and fitting for the season.

What is your summer make-up look?

Planning for a trip to the beach

With summer upon us, the beach beckons us home. Ahhhh...the happy place. As you prepare for your descent upon the Gulf of Mexico (for my Alabama peeps) or east or west coast depending on where you live, here is my practical advice for preparing and packing for that long awaited summertime fun.

Here's my advice in two parts:

1. If you have small children -

tip Utilize towels and plastic bags to catch spills and messes. Take two towels and lie them lengthwise across the backseat and then install the car seats. Take another two towels and do the same thing for the floor board. If you want to make sure that liquid doesn't seep through to the upholstery, place kitchen trash bags under the towels for extra protection. Not only does it prevent damage to the car, but allows for easy clean up after the trip by just lifting the towels up and shaking them over a trash can.

tip Develop a system for snacks, DVDs, toys, diapers, and trash that works for you. Check out this post on how to organize your car for the upcoming road trip.

tip Change a diaper every time you stop for gas.

tip Pack light and pack casual. This is the beach, not Project Runway. Leave the high heels, pack the flip flops. Read here for my thoughts on beach towels.

2. If you don't have children -

tip You are losing time reading this. Grab you toothbrush and swimsuit and head out the door. Embrace the spontaneity of life. :) I will live vicariously through you and your adventure.

Happy swimming!

Which beach are you vacationing at this summer?

Organizing your car for a road trip

Recently, my family embarked on a 15+ hour car trip to upstate New York for a family reunion and wedding. With that many hours enclosed in a rented Kia (no, I'm not joking), I learned how making good organizational choices can impact the quality of a long-distance car ride. Today, I'm sharing those tips.

My husband and I split up duties on this trip. He was in charge of driving and getting us there safely. I was in charge of maintenance and support. My duties consisted of, but were not limited to: diaper changes, passing out snacks, swapping out DVDs, distributing toys, handling and disposing of garbage, and giving baby bottles. Once we got into the thick of the car trip, I quickly realized that I needed a system to keep the car from being overtaken by trash and sippy cups, and to keep me from losing my sanity for what seemed like an eternity with some very small people who weren't ecstatic about being cooped up for that long.

Here is how I organized my workspace (I took my job seriously) in the car:
1. I emptied the glove compartment and stored DVDs in it so that I could easily access a different movie when the kids got bored with the current showing.

2. I put baby wipes, diapers and diaper rash creme in the console of the car. I changed diapers in the front seat while the driver was filling the gas tank to save time. Having those items at my fingertips made the gas station stops quick and easy without fumbling around to find much-needed items. (Even if you don't have children, baby wipes are still great for cleaning up spills and hands if you have to eat while driving)

3. I stored my purse in the backseat and kept my phone in the snack holder. I didn't need to access my purse anyway, and it gave me extra leg room which was needed for tip #4.

4. I put a small backpack of crayons, coloring books, some small toys, and snacks to the left of my feet. When someone started to get antsy in the backseat, I just tossed food back there or stickers to keep them going.

5. Finally, I put a plastic grocery bag between my seat and the passenger door to catch the trash. Each time we stopped for gas, I emptied it.

No road trip is easy, especially when traveling with children. But hopefully these tips will help make the journey more palatable and easy for you in the future.

What's your advice on staying organized while traveling?

My go-to outfit

In this busy day and age of hectic everything and frenzied paces, it's easy to get discombobulated and find yourself running errands and picking up a gallon of milk in your not-so-finest threads. By this I mean, yoga pants and your husband's college t-shirt that has the hole in the armpit and stains from the last time you got into the chalkboard paint. That's why it's important to have a uniform of sorts - your stand in outfit when you need to get dressed quickly, look presentable and still be comfortable. This requires identifying your style, your colors and coordinating something from your wardrobe that is quick and fits the bill.

Recently, a subscriber to The Chic Planner asked me what my go-to outfit is for casual wear. My "uniform" is a blazer, blouse, skinny jeans and ballet flats. It fits my classic, chic style. It's comfortable, and it's just as easy to throw on as it is an old pair of sweats.

I think as a society we have gotten away from looking our best in public places. We dress in whatever is comfortable and clean or not so clean (some of us fish things out of the dirty laundry basket) and I'm feeling a call to take that back and to put my best foot forward. We are all going to have days when the stomach bug hits and everyone looks a mess including the dog, but that's the exception.

What is your go-to outfit?

Simplifying your home thus your life - part 4. the living room

Living room, family room or den, call it what you will. It's a place of gathering for fellowship, conversation, snuggling together on the sofa for movie night, and entertaining. However, if your living room is so cluttered that is isn't recognizable for the purposes mentioned above, then it's time we de-cluttered that, too.

First up, let me clarify that I'm not against children. I have children. I am, however, in favor of spaces that don't look like a toy store blew up in them. This is my home and I want each room of it to be a peaceful sanctuary for its occupants and visitors. My home is very open, so a mess in one room affects every other room. It's important to me that the living room maintain some sense of tidiness, despite the numerous and sundry pieces of Lego's.

living room:
1. What is the look you want for this room? How do you want your guests to feel when they enter it? For me, I wanted the environment to be peaceful, and I wanted to be reminded of the beach since that's my happy place. I'm just about the last person on earth to decorate with a seashell lamp. However, I brought the beach to my living room by decorating with color. My furniture is a creamy neutral that reminds me of the sand. I have a lamp and pillows with pops of blue that mirror the water. My walls are painted a pale grey and the rest of the rooms that flow into my living room are all the same color palette.

Beyond de-cluttering the living room, maybe it's time to consider a fresh paint job, new throw pillows or even removing a couple of pieces of furniture to allow for a more open space for people to gather when entertaining.

2. I mentioned here my disdain for cluttered end tables. How many objects are on the tables in your living room? Try removing at least one item. Tim Gunn, from Project Runway, says before you leave your house, remove one accessory or piece of jewelry. That's a great reminder to keep it simple and it can be applied to decorating as well. Many times we put more work into creating an amazing display when actually the pieces you have will stand out more when given the space.

Thanks to all my readers for participating in this series on simplifying our homes. I love hearing from you.

What is the most significant change you are making in simplifying your home?

Simplifying your home thus your life - part 3. master bedroom & bath

In the last two weeks, we have de-cluttered our guest bathroom, pantry and kitchens. Today, we are going to take back our bedrooms and bathrooms. If you are interested in organizing your master closet, you can read this post I wrote a few weeks ago.

One thing to keep in mind as you continue the process of simplifying your home: this is your journey, not someone else's. It is not your job to convince all humans (small children are the exception because they have to do what you say, or at least we wish they would!) living in your household that they need to de-clutter. If you want to share what you're doing with your spouse, then great. They may be enthusiastic and jump right in, helping you toss stuff. But if they aren't, that's okay, too. This is your journey and I can tell you from experience that you set the tone for your home. The influence of what you're doing will rub off and eventually everyone will grab hold to this new way of living. It's because minimalism and detaching from things makes everyone feel good. My husband wasn't a minimalist when I met him, but I can honestly say, he is now. He maintains a capsule wardrobe and carefully considers every purchase he makes.

Remembering the tips that I posted on de-cluttering, let's start with the master bedroom.

master bedroom:
1. Put away any clothes lying on the floor, chairs or dresser. Put books in your nightstand or bookshelf. I don't have chairs or benches in my bedroom because they become clothing and clutter magnets. When you don't have a place to drop something, then you are more likely to hang it up or put it where it belongs. Is there any unnecessary furniture that can be removed?

2. Examine your nightstand. Are only the essentials gracing its surface? Alarm clock, cell phone, and lamp are just about the only necessities for sitting out. If you have the room for your favorite picture of a loved one, so be it. My bedroom is a very private place for me so I don't like to have pictures of other people in it. Let me say this in the most delicate manner I can, it doesn't encourage romance.

3. Don't let your bedroom become a dumping ground for toys. Right now, we have two huge boxes in our room that will be donated to a local charity after we finish de-cluttering our garage. Those boxes are about to drive me batty and they have some old baby toys in them that my kids keep pulling out. I keep looking at those things realizing what huge eye sores they are and how they are polluting my pristine, peaceful bedroom environment.

master bath:
1. Empty drawers and cabinets and clean them. If you have skincare products that have been opened for more than a year, toss them. Most opened products lose their potency after nine months. That set of hot rollers that you haven't used since the 90s - it's got to go.

2. Nail polish - if you haven't used a particular color in the past year or so, toss it. This is one area that as women, we tend to keep lots of old colors. Pick your favorite neutral, and one color polish for the fall, and one for the spring. Let the rest go.

3. Let's talk products for a minute. As women, we so often purchase a product and then find the next "miracle product" that will ensure an instant face lift without surgery, so we buy that product. All the while, these old skincare, haircare and make up items keep piling up in our drawers. We don't want to throw them out because they are practically brand new, we payed hard earned money for them, and there is still plenty of product left in them. I'm here to tell you that it is okay to dump them. You aren't going to use them, because if you really loved them you would be using them now instead of letting them collect dust and grow bacteria. At some point, you have to admit that it was a waste of money and that you made a mistake. Don't keep punishing yourself for it by allowing it to take up valuable space in your home and become clutter.  Be free! (this goes for all items in your home, especially clothing)

Next week, we are de-cluttering the living room.

What item/s are you evicting from your bedroom or bathroom this week?

Simplifying your home thus your life - part 2. kitchen & pantry

"I didn't know I had this!" is the proverbial cry I hear from a client each week. As we go on a dig amongst our things, we quickly discover lost and duplicate items and find ourselves richer during the de-cluttering process. Last week, we started the process of simplifying our homes with de-cluttering the guest bath. This week, we address the pantry and kitchen.

the pantry:
Peter Walsh, author of "Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?", recommends buying only the ingredients you need for cooking each week. By doing this, you reduce the amount of food in your home, making the choices to snack and sneak treats less possible. Mr. Walsh offers a correlation between pantry clutter and weight gain. I decided to test his strategy. Buying only what I need has made a positive impact on my grocery budget and reduced the amount of clutter in my pantry.

1. Toss expired food products and set up a donation box for a food bank with the items you know you aren't going to use (various canned goods). If you aren't comfortable with donating the food, then try menu planning from what you have left in your pantry to use up items that have been there for a while.

2. Corral your spices and sort through those too. They can go bad within a year so check the expiration dates and smell them. If the aroma isn't strong then they won't be contributing much to your prepared dishes. I like to keep all my spices in a clear box in my pantry. When I'm cooking, I put the box on my island and pull the individual spices that I need.

3. Consider a baking box similar to the one that holds your spices. Store your extracts, baking powder, food coloring, cookie sprinkles and pastry bag in it.

4. I use a larger clear plastic box to contain my oils and vinegars. All the plastic boxes that I use were re-purposed from somewhere else in my house.

5. If you have the room, I recommend putting dry, packaged goods on one shelf and bottled/canned goods on another. This makes it easier to spot what you need. I know exactly where I can find flour and rice in my pantry. Jarred salsa is located on the shelf above next to a can of chicken broth.

the kitchen:
1. Consider how cooking utensils are arranged in your kitchen.

Where is your prep place? This is the area where you do your dicing, cutting, chopping and mixing. Ideally, it is where your cutting boards, mixing bowls, measuring cups and knives are stored. Many of us have limited space in our kitchens and we have to do our best with what we have to work with. But in the process of de-cluttering your appliances and gadgets, you may find more room and then can set things up to benefit you and how you cook.

2. Gadgets - good grief I think I have seen them all! I've even run across an egg slicer. My client said she needed it to make egg salad. I told her that a bowl and a fork will do the trick and these are items she already has and uses every day in her kitchen. Consider your gadgets and see if a cutting board and sharp knife will accomplish the same purpose. A cluttered utensil drawer makes for a less enjoyable and stressful cooking experience when you have to hunt for a wooden spoon to stir the sauce.

3. Keep only the serving dishes and bowls that you actually use and love. I have read many testimonies from minimalists who got rid of their china. As a born and bred southern woman, I would never advocate that. Even if you only use something once a year, I believe that is enough to warrant its placement in a cabinet. That's why minimalism is so great; you choose only the things you need and love (which looks differently for everyone) and let go of the rest. I love my china pattern and I use it about twice a year.

Next week, we are de-cluttering the master bedroom and bath.

How is your de-cluttering process going?

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